My friend Olivia Villanti has figured out a foolproof dinner for those evenings you crave something warm but have zero energy. Her solution? A casserole made with any ingredients you have on hand. She and her husband love it so much they’ve established Casserole Mondays. “It’s maybe the least sexy name you can think of,” she says. “But this dish is indisputably awesome.” Here’s how to try it…
Five years ago, my husband and I spent a few days at his aunt Martine’s home in the south of France, where I took a series of mental memos on her casual, gracious way of serving guests. For example:
* Large hunks of cheese passed around after dinner. Noted.
* Half carafes of rosé at lunch and Magnum ice cream bars for dessert. Also noted.
* Delicious casseroles constructed with what she called “nothing in the fridge.” Game changer.
I watched her effortlessly feed 10 of us one night with a layered casserole of vegetables, cheese, tons of herbs and leftover bread. It was elegant and mouthwatering, and she hadn’t even stopped by the market to pick up ingredients that day.
Now, after years of making Martine’s casseroles at home, I’m confident that it’s a universally fantastic trick. The one non-negotiable is a good cast iron Dutch oven or crock-pot with a lid. From there, start mining for whatever you’ve got in the fridge.
Line the first layer of your crock pot or Dutch oven with a bit of oil and bread. Old bread works great: A stale bagel, the heels of a supermarket loaf, leftover baguette from a wine-and-cheese night. Whatever you’ve got.
Layer by layer, add any vegetables, herbs, and whatever proteins you have on hand. This can literally be anything: onions, garlic, broccoli, potatoes, leeks, zucchini, tomatoes, roasted chicken, tempeh, a few beaten eggs… anything! Season with salt and pepper as you go.
Top everything off with cheese, add some milk (I use a cup of almond milk if I have root vegetables that need to cook, less if I’m working with more delicate veggies), and throw in the oven for an hour at 425F.
I can confidently say this casserole, with its not-so-humble French origins, is one of the most comforting things you can make. With a now four-month-old son, I’ve also found this to be a bulletproof mom dinner.
Thank you so much for sharing, Olivia! I want to try it tonight.